August 11, 2008

Hubble's 100,000th Orbit

The Hubble Space Telescope has just recently completed its 100,000th orbit around Earth today, August 11, 2008. The telescope reached that milestone above the Pacific Ocean (Illustration above). It has been a long journey for this famous telescope, 18 years long, one that has let humans learn so much about the universe. However, it has not always been an easy life for the Hubble, marked by quite a few challenges and repairs. To mark this special event, the researchers at the Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore, Maryland have decided to do something special.

These researchers decided to point the giant space telescope at a part of the nebula near star cluster NGC 2074. The nebula, 170,000 light-years away from us, is an intense area of star formation that may have been caused by a supernova explosion nearby. It is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which is a satellite of the Milky Way galaxy.

The colorful image taken by the Hubble, below, reveals many features of the nebula lighted up by strong ultraviolet radiation. Young stars existing in NGC 2074 are emitting strong radiation that is eating away the edges of the nebula. The area covered by the image spans a massive 100 light-years and huge towers of dust come out of the bright colorful walls of gas that form part of a large molecular cloud. To give a sense of scale, the seahorse-shaped tower at lower, right in the image measures about 20 light-years in length, approximately 4 times the distance between the Sun and Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our sun!

This color image was taken by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 onboard the Hubble Space Telescope on August 10, 2008. The Red colors show emission from sulfur atoms, green from glowing hydrogen, and blue from glowing oxygen.

Images: NASA

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